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Philosophy of Science

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Philosophy

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Movses Demirtchyan, Ph.D, Assistant Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
The philosophy of science is part of philosophy which considers the concept and borders of science, the development of science and epistemology. Also there are more special sections of philosophy of a science, such as mathematics philosophy, physics philosophy, chemistry philosophy, biology philosophy, etc. The subjects of philosophy of a science are general laws and tendencies of scientific knowledge. 
 
2. Objectives of the course module

2.1 To introduce students with the core concepts of philosophy of science and epistemology.
2.2 To present the connections and differences between philosophy and science.
2.3 To consider impact of science on modern social relations.
2.4 To show perspectives of development of science and its philosophical review.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay - 40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 The subject of philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is focused on studying of natural sciences and socially-humanities. The philosopher of a science searches dynamics of development of scientific knowledge. If the main objective of science is to find out the truth, the main purpose of philosophy of science is to find out the practical application of scientific results.

Readings:

Assignment 1:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the main differences between philosophy and science? Pleas, substantiate your answer.
  • What is the object of philosophy of science?
  • What features does epistemology has?

Class 2 Positivism
Positivistic and antipositivistec theories will be presented in this class. Positivism asserts that the only authentic knowledge is the one which is based on sense experience and positive verification. Sociological positivism was later reformulated by Emile Durkheim as a foundation for social research. At the turn of the 20th century the first wave of German sociologists, including Max Weber and Georg Simmel rejected this doctrine elaborating antipositivistic tradition in sociology. Later, antipositivists and critical theorists have associated positivism with "scientism" - science as ideology.

Readings:

Assignment 2:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the features of positivism?
  • What is the main idea behind positivism?
  • Compare stages of development of positivistic thought? Please, substantiate your answer.


Class 3 Post positivism. Karl Raymond Popper’s critical rationalism
Poppers' critical rationalism will be introduced in this classe. Popper is known for his attempt to repudiate the classical observationalist/inductivist account of scientific method by advancing empirical falsification instead. The main problem of his philosophy was the process of growth of scientific theories.

Readings:

Assignment 3:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Describe and explain the method of falsification?
  • What are the differences  between methods of justification and falsification?
  • Compare scientific two different theories in accordance with Poppers' approach? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 4 Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is the attempt to describe the historical evolution of science.
The main concepts and structure of scientific revolutions will be presented during in this class.

Readings:

Assignment 4:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is the main purpose of the theory of scientific revolutions?
  • What Is the difference between Kuhn’s and Lakatos’s methodologies of science? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 5. The concept of the research program of Imre Lakatos
In this class, we will discuss Imre Lakatos' concept of the research program. Lakatos' contribution to the philosophy of science was an attempt to resolve the perceived conflict between Popper's falsificationism and the revolutionary structure of science described by Kuhn. Lakatos sought a methodology that would harmonize these contradictory points of view, a methodology that could provide a rational account of scientific progress.

Readings:

Assignment 5:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • How would you describe the concept of the research program of Lakatos? 
  • Which are the differences between Popper’s and Lakatos’s methodologies of scientific research?
  • Which theories can be accepted as scientific ones, according to Lakatos methodology. Please, substantiate your answer. 

Class 6 Paul Feyerabend and his “methodological anarchism”
During this class, Feyerabend's theory of "methodological anarchism" will be presented. It was originally seen as radical in the philosophy of science, because it implies that philosophy can neither succeed in providing a general description of science, nor in devising a method to clearly define  differences between scientific and non-scientific knowledge.

Readings:

Assignment 6:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Describe in general terms the methodological and epistemological anarchisms.
  • What does the “anything goes” method mean in philosophical /ontological, epistemological and axiological/ review? Please, substantiate your answer.

Class 7 Demarcation problem
This is a problem of demarcation of boundaries between science and non-science. In this class we will look through the problems of demarcation of boundaries between science and non-science, science and pseudoscience, between science and philosophy and between science and religion. 

Readings:

Assignment:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Why is the demarcation problem is so important for philosophy of science? Please, substantiate your answer.
  • Is there any logical, rational criteria for resolving the problem of demarcation? Please, substanitate your answer. 

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed withing this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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